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English Drama: Variant Forms

Searching for variant typography

Early modern typographical conventions mean that in pre-1700 texts in particular certain characters are often used interchangeably: the character u often appears as a v, and vice versa, such that the word love often appears as loue, and usurper sometimes appears as vsurper. Similarly, the characters j and i are often exchanged, with the word juniperoccasionally appearing as iuniper, and Icarusas Jcarus.

In English Drama all of these variant forms are preserved exactly from the source text and appear in the alphabetical word index on the Keyword List page (click the "select from a list" link alongside the Keyword(s) in Play field).

English Drama allows you to include typographical variants in your results automatically using the relevant checkbox on the Search page. If you check this box and submit your search, English Drama will find variant forms of your search term using the substitutions in the box to the left.

For instance, a search for Keyword(s) in Play: "Julius Caesar" with the Include typographical variants checkbox ticked will retrieve occurrences of Julius Caesar and variant forms such as Iulius Cæsar and Ivlivs Cæsar (common in early printed editions of works by Shakespeare, Marlowe and Webster).

Searching for variant spellings

Wherever possible, the Chadwyck-Healey Literature Collections feature the first authorized edition of any given literary work and preserve the spelling and punctuation of the copy text. Users should be aware when searching that the spelling of some words has changed and that a modern-spelling search term will not in itself be adequate to retrieve all the relevant results from historical texts.

For instance, entering the search term virtue will not retrieve occurrences of vertue; sensibility will not match with sensibilitie or sensibillity, and honor will not pick up honour.

For the purposes of searching, non-standard characters such as the thorn (þ) are treated exactly like their modern equivalents, so that a search for the Keyword(s) in Play 'auther' will retrieve occurrences of 'auther', 'auþer' and 'auðer'.

Words containing non-standard characters can either be selected from the alphabetically-arranged list for the Keyword(s) in Play field or copied from other sources, such as Word documents or the electronic versions of Anglo-Saxon and Middle English texts, and pasted into the Keyword(s) in Play field. 

Character Substitutions

  • v for u
  • u for v
  • j for i or y
  • i for j or y
  • y for i or j
  • w for vv or uu
  • s for f

Variant Spellings Techniques

English Drama provides 2 ways to search for variant spellings:

  • Using the ? or characters, referred to as wildcards. For example, v?rtuehono?r or sensibil?it*
  • Typing the word you are looking for in the Keyword(s) in Play field and then clicking the "select from a list" link. You will then be able to scroll through an alphabetical list of all the words, including all old spellings, and select the ones you are interested in.